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Driven away by villagers, flu fighters dump dead birds near drain

Margram, Jan. 17: A blood-soaked gunny bag stuffed with 15 dead chickens was found near a drain in Rampurhat today, as flu fighters grappled with a shortage of vehicles to carry away the culled birds and of pits to bury them in.

Residents of Benegram village, who had come to graze their cattle, saw the bag lying next to a culvert on the Rampurhat-Bishnupur Road, about 300km from Calcutta, this morning.

“Around 11am, we saw the bag with blood seeping out. When we opened it, we found dead chickens inside,” said 20-year-old Babu Mondal.

The villagers dragged the bag to the road and tried to flag down several rapid response teams (RRTs) who were zipping by. “But all of them refused to take the birds, saying the area did not fall under their jurisdiction,” complained Sushil Mal, 50.

The villagers then took the chickens out of the bag with their bare hands — a practice strictly forbidden — and placed them in the middle of the road.

The birds had begun to stink when a group of flu fighters finally agreed to take them away. They picked up the chickens from the road — splattered with blood and reeking of rotten flesh — and put them back into the gunny bag.

They wanted to drop the bag into a pit at Dakhalbati village, about 2km from the spot, but the villagers would not let them. The team then contacted its control room at Margram, from where another vehicle was sent to take the birds elsewhere.

“This gunny bag belongs to the RRT and the dead birds have broken necks. So it is obvious that the birds were culled by one of our teams,” said a member of the RRT that took the bag away.

The Birbhum administration admitted that there were not enough vehicles to ferry the dead birds.

“Several RRT members have complained that they were finding it difficult to carry the bags in their small jeeps,” Prasunna Kumar Mondal, the sub-divisional officer of Rampurhat, said.

However, sources said this was not the only problem. The residents of Benegram had last night resisted attempts to bury dead chickens in pits near their village.

“They don’t want the dead chickens of other villages to be dumped near their homes,” said a senior official of the animal resources development (ARD) department.

The norm followed by the flu fighters is to put the dead birds in gunny bags and bury them in pits on government land. They cannot dump them in a water body or bury them in agricultural land.

ARD officials said flu fighters had faced similar resistance from villagers during an outbreak in Maharashtra and Manipur.

“We have to ensure that such things are not repeated because the rotten flesh and feathers of dead chickens could be dangerous for villagers,” an official said.

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